Carbon fibre bonnet promises more fuel efficient cars

Automotive giant Ford has demonstrated a prototype carbon fibre bonnet that it claims could help lower fuel consumption for its customers.

The carbon fibre reinforced plastic, usually associated with bespoke racing vehicles or high performance sports cars, is said to weigh 50% less than a standard steel version. "It's no secret that reducing a vehicle's weight can deliver major benefits for fuel consumption, but a process for fast and affordable production of carbon fibre automotive parts in large numbers has never been available," said Inga Wehmeyer, advanced materials and processes research engineer, Ford European Research Centre. "By partnering with materials experts through the Hightech.NRW research project, Ford is working to develop a solution that supports cost efficient manufacturing of carbon fibre components." Ford's involvement in the Hightech.NRW research project follows its partnership with Dow Automotive Systems; a collaboration announced earlier this year that will investigate new materials, design processes and manufacturing techniques. The project aims are to develop a cost effective method to manufacture carbon fibre composites for body panel applications that can be incorporated into existing vehicle production processes; significantly reduce individual component production times; reduce the amount of finishing work required to acceptable standards; and achieve a minimum 50% reduction in component weight. "Customers of Ford's passenger cars should not expect to see carbon fibre-bodied examples on sale in the near future," commented Wehmeyer. "But the techniques we have refined and developed for the prototype Focus bonnet could be transferred to higher volume applications at a later date."